Sunday, February 27, 2011

Don't Make Myths

Yesterday I looked at some old poems I tried to write about a place I worked called Elm Bank (in Kettering) & three women I knew there, all of whom I fancied, one of whom I had a brief, unsuccessful fling with, & one of whom I ended up being the immasculated mistress of for three years. The poems had some good moments in them, but generally they didn't work. & now there seems little point in persisting with them; the energy has gone. I wondered, though, after looking at them, how I managed when things had started so well to fuck up three potentially beautiful friendships & I realised that in two out of three cases it was dishonesty (& foot odour probably). I liked to think I was a big pot-smoking vegetarian storm-the-barricades hippie radical & I was actually a shy, arrogant, inexperienced, stay-at-home book-radical writing anti-Conservative screeds in my journals to be discovered by lit archaelogists decades hence & occasionally sending out average poems to little magazines & being crushed into months of inactivity when they came back marked no-thank-you. I was also completely dominated by my sister, who lived with me & didn't work & who I gave half of the money I earned for the upkeep (bare) of ourselves & our father's house - which we had no right to be in. I moved out of there when I 'got together' with the married one out of the three women I knew & liked so much because she was the first one I'd invited into the house & when she saw what was going on she was horrified. The others I kept at arm's length when the subject of home life came up, spinning bullshit stories to justify the fact that I was living with my sister. It was all part anyway of the habit of lying I'd acquired because I lived partly in a fantasy world and also because when I visited the real world it made me feel so pathetically inadequate. But if you get close to people they can tell. They can smell your fraud. & with the woman in this poem I had finally met the genuine real in-the-flesh version of the person I thought I was. I had talked myself into a world that back then I couldn't cope with. But I kept pretending it was all like walking down the road, no different, nothing I wasn't used to every day (so where are your friends, matey? why do you choke when you smoke a joint & turn pale when I mention pills?) The pretence was fucking stupid when I think back on it. I was 35, not 18 years old & just out in the world on my own for the first time. I must have looked a complete jackass, though she was kind enough not to tell me so...& I was keeping my closeness to the married woman from her. We'd already fucked, & broken up because she thought I fancied the girl in the poem more. Which I did. But the girl in the poem didn't like her & when she said so I claimed I didn't know her very well, agreed that she was weird. Married woman & I reunited when the woman in the poem cooled off quicker than an unattended bath & three years of utter stupid self-deceiving crap began...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday Morning Sweet Outbreath For The Human Race

I might have read a lot, written a lot, talked a lot (!!!), heard a lot, seen a lot, I might even have improved the lot of a few (not a lot), by caring enough to try, but nothing matters either a little or a lot to me, in the end, except the connections I've made, the people I've met & known, the people I've laughed with & hung out with & loved, even if sometimes it didn't last for long...

(It's amazing how generous you feel towards humanity & life when one of the things that's been worrying you for weeks & weeks gets sorted out!)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Free Writing After Watching "Stonehenge Visions Tipi Valley Dreams" On You Tube

It was as beautiful on the fringes back then as it was ugly looking in on the Straight world. I used to work in a Whole Food shop called Ploughshares run by Uni graduates dedicated to veganism, incense, good weed & replacing the Capitalist oligarchy with people who could think & feel, people in touch with their spirit & the spirit of Life, people who'd rather go & sit under a tree with a bottle of pure orange than sit in a coffee shop. We considered the guy who ran the corporate health food shop across town a Nazi & Margaret Thatcher represented everything that was dark & putrid in human evolution. & you know what? I don't know what happened to those guys -- Ploughshares got bought out by middle-class dilletantes when the profits plummeted, & the original co-operative members all quit -- but I really haven't changed at all. People always say that when they get middle-aged & pot-bellied but if you don't believe it come round my house one afternoon. In fact I'm more of a damn hippie than I was back then because I've seen the conventional life up close & I know it doesn't work; I know it's a con trick played by a few sharp, merciless, spiritually dead people designed to rob you of your coins. I'm also old & I've been in too many confrontations & bad situations & seen too many gut-twisting horrible things to be scared of anything anymore except watching anyone else I love die

We used to have a Ploughshares market stall in Northampton every Friday. I hated coming out really early on freezing winter mornings to set that up. But I had better bladder control then -- people weren't so thirsty anyway before coffee houses proliferated -- & when the day got going we always had great talks with hairy hippy Keith who ran the secondhand book stall. Would stand there for ages talking about books & food & Margaret Thatcher being the embodiment of all wickedness. He's still there, his beard as thick, his hair as long as it ever was, but greyer. I miss those days when it felt like there were loads of us around who believed there was an alternative to Capitalism & Communism (as ill-defined as our alternative might have been)...the Beast was evident everywhere but you knew that around every corner you'd meet someone with weird hair or tattooes or piercings who smoked too much weed & drank too much lager & listened to reggae & dub or old folk music & was ready to go & stand outside an American Air Force base because they couldn't rationalise in their minds as too many can these days that it was right in any way for human kind to retain the means to destroy his/ her own planet. Someone who wanted to feel & LOVE instead of have a career in banking & didn't mind if they made no fucking money because they knew what was important in life & what wasn't. & ANYTHING coming from the Tory Party devil wasn't. The people I'm talking about in this apparently dewy-eyed nostalgic way did exist in large numbers then & there AREN'T as many of them around as there used to be. Not as far as I know. But they're still there -- I'm one of them -- & that's what gives me hope.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


Yesterday our esteemed Creative Writing lecturer opined that although Robert Browning was a great poet - they like to tell you these things rather than put you to the trouble of working it out for yourself - he wouldn't want to go to the pub with him. I was deliberately keeping quiet this time because of all the disputes I've had with the lecturer in previous classes (it's becoming a bit of a floor show, actually, for the other students); but how wrong can a (presumably) educated man be? Robert Browning would have been a great bloke to go to the pub with. Who else can you think of from the respectable side of the poetry game who wrote two poems in the voice of a man who has murdered his wife? I mean, obviously I don't applaud the sentiment - I've never wanted to murder anybody, although Margaret Thatcher's name still makes me bubble with hate - but at least he wasn't writing cutesy things about knights and long-haired women in towers like Tennyson (sorry Kerry, if you're reading this). Never, ever - it's a good rule to live by - trust anybody whose middle name is 'Lord'.

And think about this for a moment. Other than Browning, who else in the Nineteenth Century, among the poets, was rock and roll enough to make them a good drinking buddy? Byron, of course, made Browning look like a choirboy, but if you went to the pub with Byron he'd leave you to go and bang a big-bosomed strumpet as soon as you went for a piss. Coleridge was also pretty hardcore (these are all Nineteenth Century aren't they? I forget, I slept too heavily last night for scholarship), but you wouldn't be able to get Coleridge off his couch and down the road to the pub in the first place. He'd just lie there mumbling about dead seas and ghost ships. You could try pulling him upright but if you did his body would just roll onto the floor, where he'd splutter with laughter for a moment and then start snoring. I can see it all.

No, it has to be Robert Browning for the pub, I'm afraid, whatever the University tells us. They'd have you with fucking Wordsworth probably, and he'd insist on drinking real ale and rhapsodising boringly in the cool night air.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

What In Bob's Name Is A Poem Anyway

I have a book called 'Hollywood Foto Rhetoric' that Bob Dylan wrote the text for many years ago. There's an interview with him from 2008 in which the interview says, "Do you consider the pieces in the text poems?" Bob says, "I don't know, you'd have to ask an Academic that." The interviewer says, "But what do you think?" (He's obviously never read another Dylan interview.) Bob says, "I'd have to ask an Academic too. But who cares?" Which is exactly how I feel about my poetry. Or whatever you want to call it. Everything is poetry. Nothing is poetry. "A poem," as Bob once said, "is a naked person." All I do is write. What you want to do with it afterwards is up to you, I'm not looking for a career or a seat on the Faculty and I sure as hell don't want Andrew Neill to give me £30 000 because I'm "accessible" like Jo Shapcott. I refuse to take an award from anybody who edited a Rupert Murdoch newspaper and dyes the grey out of his hair.

I will not bend to lick the shoes
of Larkin, Heaney, Plath or Hughes.
Call me anything you choose.
Like Ron Whitehead, I refuse!